Suboxone is a prescription drug that’s used as a maintenance medication for opiate addiction. Because opiate withdrawal can be excruciating and cravings are a long-term concern, Suboxone is administered in place of the opioid of addiction to stave off withdrawal symptoms without producing the same level of euphoric effects of other opioids. It can be used for short-term, long-term or lifelong maintenance.
How Suboxone Works
Suboxone is a combination of four parts buprenorphine and one part naloxone.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means that while it produces effects that are similar to those of heroin and other opioids, they’re far weaker. Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect that prevents its effects from becoming stronger even when it’s taken at high doses.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it blocks the effects of opioids on the opioid receptors. Because buprenorphine alone has such a high potential for abuse, naloxone was added to help prevent its misuse.
When Suboxone is taken as directed, the buprenorphine dominates and prevents the onset of withdrawal, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If the tablets are crushed and injected or snorted for the purpose of getting high, however, the naloxone dominates and prevents the buprenorphine from acting on the opioid receptors, and withdrawal symptoms set in.
How Suboxone is Abused
Suboxone was designed to prevent abuse, but according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, this medication has nevertheless become a concern for law enforcement agencies. When it’s crushed and snorted, some people are able to get the desired effect of euphoria, particularly if they don’t already have an opioid addiction. As a result, the tablets are being illegally sold on the street throughout the U.S.
The Consequences of Suboxone Abuse
Abusing Suboxone can lead to addiction and dependence. Addiction is characterized by using a drug compulsively even though it’s causing trouble in your life. Dependence is characterized by changes in brain function that lead the brain to operate more “normally” when a drug is present than when it’s not. Treating both addiction and dependence—particularly when it comes to opioids—almost always requires professional intervention.
Suboxone is most commonly abused along with other drugs, particularly depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines, and these combinations carry a high risk of respiratory depression that can quickly lead to coma and death.
Suboxone abuse may also worsen symptoms of mental illness or cause the onset of a mental condition where one didn’t previously exist.
Treating Suboxone Addiction and Dependence
The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites a combination of medication and behavioral therapy as the most effective way to treat addiction and dependence, and this is particularly true for an opioid addiction.
Addressing opioid dependence is typically a matter of using a maintenance medication, and paradoxically, that includes Suboxone. If you’re addicted to Suboxone, your treatment team will work with you to develop the most effective solution for detox or maintenance.
The highly complex psychological issues behind an addiction to Suboxone are addressed through various therapies. A high-quality treatment program will utilize both traditional and alternative therapies that have been proven effective through clinical research. Therapy will help you identify and change harmful ways of thinking and behaving, and you’ll develop a variety of skills and strategies to help you cope with triggers like cravings and stress. Through the treatment process, you’ll gain a higher level of self-awareness and self-esteem.
Professional help for overcoming an addiction is critical for successful long-term recovery. Taking that first step and seeking help is often the hardest part of recovery, although that’s not to say that overcoming an opioid addiction is easy. However, the hard work you put in will pay off far into the future as you improve your overall physical and mental health.
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